Taos Winter Wine Festival
The winemaker of the family was asked to represent Kendall-Jackson at the Taos Winter Wine Festival this last weekend in Taos, New Mexico. Somehow I fangled a companion ticket and got to go along for the ride! The Wine Festival was held in the town of Taos, about two-and-a-half hours drive from Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest city. Irby Wood, one of Kendall-Jackson’s sales representatives and probably the best New Mexico tour guide you could ask for, picked us up from the airport on Wednesday evening and took us through Santa Fe, the state’s capital, on the way to Taos. We stopped for dinner at a New Mexican restaurant in Santa Fe called La Fonda to sample the local cuisine; very similar to Mexican food, New Mexican food has the addition of hot red or green chile sauce on most of the plates. La Fonda also boasted some of the best guacamole we’ve ever eaten, it was made from scratch right at our table, so good! We could definitely venture back to Santa Fe some time for a few more days, lots of restaurants and countless art galleries, as well as the oldest building left standing in the United States.
We were put up by the Taos Winter Wine Festival at an amazing resort called El Monte Sagrado. As well as being probably the most exquisite resort at which either of us has ever stayed, the hotel also had an eco- twist: they recycle 100% of their grey water, pull their electricity from a solar grid, and use geothermal heat to warm up the rooms in the cold high-desert climate…
We didn’t spend a whole lot of time in the town of Taos because the Wine Festival was held in the mountains, 30 minutes up the road at Taos Ski Valley. We did, however, get to eat at in town at Lambert’s, a fantastic game restaurant where we enjoyed pheasant, elk sirloin and beef tenderloin, an amazing meal. Irby also introduced us to his favorite Taos coffee shop, The Bean, where we stopped for breakfast every morning on our way up the mountain. Their breakfast burritos, which I unfortunately didn’t sample until the last morning, are pretty bomb.
We were free to ski during the day Thursday through Saturday. During the evening on Friday all of the wineries attending the Festival gathered for an across-the-board tasting event. Think ZAP but a lot smaller scale… There was also a bunch of great food to go with the libations, I took multiple trips to the table with the steer hind quarter pictured below. I never knew that there were vineyards in New Mexico, but there was a New Mexican winery there, as well as a bunch from California and even a showing from Penfolds and Rosemount.
Saturday night was the Kendall-Jackson wine dinner, which was held at Rhoda’s Restaurant at the base of the ski hill. Each course was paired with a Kendall Jackson wine, and the guest winemaker (that’s Mrs. V) did a fantastic job of discussing the specifics of each varietal as they were served. I wish I’d kept a copy of the menu, talk about good food!
The setup at Rhoda’s Restaurant
Now for the skiing… When I was a teenager I remember sitting on a chairlift with a bunch of instructors in Breckenridge, Colorado and listening to them plan their next trip to ski Taos. Ski instructors who get to ski free in Breckenridge wanting to drive to Taos to ski? So ever since sitting on that chairlift I’ve wanted to see what Taos was all about. It didn’t disappoint… The mountain isn’t huge when you compare it to places like Vail or The Canyons, but the terrain is a lot of fun and the steepness of the majority of the runs is great. In addition, the mountain has held out on installing a lift to reach the upper steeps, the only way up is to hike, so the powder stays fresh for a good portion of a powder day if you’re willing to make the hike at 12,000 feet. We scored some nice powder on Thursday and Friday, when it snowed pretty much all day. Saturday was clear but still very cold, it gave us a chance to actually visualize the mountain and surrounds that had been cloaked in cloud up until then. I made the hike to the upper bowls a couple of times, one of the runs was (sorry Steamboat) probably one of the best tree runs I’ve ever done: waist deep powder, super steep, if only it was longer… Somebody enjoyed their Christmas skis, taking a lesson on Thursday and tearing up the powder by the weekend’s end.